Friday, August 26, 2005

Not that you asked...

I've been trying to recreate some balance in our lives the past two weeks, as in, Do Dishes Daily, Blog Weekly, instead of the other way around. But I just have to blog about the subject of Hathor's latest cartoon.

She was pretty furious about a column in Salon criticizing outspoken attachment parents. And I love her cartoon's response. It truly is not fair that parents who base their parenting choices on history, thought and research are the ones NOT allowed to share their opinions. Not that I think anyone should be handing out unsolicited advice to strangers. But AP moms get more than their fair share. I can't tell you how many times people "warned" me that my baby was going to "overheat" or be "smothered" in his sling. AP parents suffer through all sorts of nosy, unwanted questions. "Isn't he potty trained yet?" "He's not still sleeping with you, is he?" "When are you going to wean that child?" or "Why don't you just spank him, then he'll stop that whining!"

I think Ayelet Waldman is correct that advice from AP parents is more threatening to a parent's sense of adequacy than the advice of those whose practices are "often less a matter of conviction than one of convenience." Shouldn't it be? No one wants to be a detached parent. And everyone knows "breast is best," whether or not they want to admit it or do anything about it. But what, exactly, is wrong with conviction? The problem is NOT that AP parents give conviction-based advice. The problem is that human beings are imperfect. They forget that other parents have feelings and love their children. They forget that NONE of us WANT to screw up our kids. And they forget that it's rude to give unsolicited advice to strangers.

On the other hand, I, for one, am tired of giving good advice to people who don't really want it. Did I mention that my last client is using Baby Wise as her parenting bible? She had that baby on a schedule before she even got home from the hospital, and quit breastfeeding not long after that. She had no business taking my class in the first place. She wasn't the least bit interested in natural childbirth, and she thinks that you can't raise a child on less than $80,000 a year.

In other disappointing news... Our neighbors across the street became parents for the first time a few days ago. (That's not the disappointment, of course.) They're very private people, and we haven't been especially forward in our neighborliness because of that. Nonetheless, they know that I'm a breastfeeding educator, and that I was available for any assistance they might need. Unfortunately, they chose to keep their difficulties of the first two days to themselves, and their baby girl ended up back in the hospital with severe jaundice.

My neighbor and friend who lives next door to the new parents brought me the news. She was pretty irritated by the whole scenario, knowing it could have been prevented. I'm frustrated by the fact that they were released from the hospital before the baby was nursing well, just because the mother had an easy birth. But I wasn't surprised that they didn't ask for help.

One of the first lessons we were taught in lactation educator training was the maxim "Don't work harder than the client." In other words, if the mom doesn't want to do the work, there's nothing you can do to make her succeed at breastfeeding. At first I thought it sounded like a cop-out. Aren't we supposed to care about our clients and their babies? Wouldn't anyone who loved their baby and had the right information WANT to breastfeed? We have to start out as idealists, or we'd never bother at all.

But eventually we're forced into realism. When you get that first call from a mom who's clearly looking for a way out, who doesn't really want you to have a solution, only a reassuring "you tried, it's okay to give up now." Because the truth is that a lot of people don't want the information at all. They don't want to do the work, and they don't want to feel any guilt. Ignorance is bliss -- though only when you have no idea of the greater bliss that's available with the right information, motivation and support.

The problem, of course, is that some moms get caught in the middle. They desperately want to breastfeed their babies, and they've tried everything they and their consultants know of, but some piece of information, some amount of support, some act of God is missing, and the bliss they expected never comes. It's not fair.

In the case of our hermetic neighbors, I don't think it's a matter of not wanting to succeed so much as it is our culture's bizarre reverence for medical personnel. As though somehow people who specialize in the care of sick or premature babies in emergency situations would know more about the proper care and feeding of a healthy, full-term newborn than an experienced mother certified in breastfeeding education. They don't. They used to give babies sugar water, for heaven's sake. Not that a NICU nurse can't also become a CLE or IBLCE -- I wish more would! But it's not a normal part of their training.

Another part of the problem is the idea that you can't actually prepare for parenting, that you just have to figure it out as you go, and learn from your mistakes. Sure, that's true to some extent. But there IS information out there. And some mistakes CAN be prevented. Severe jaundice would be one of them.

Anyhow, I think I've gone on long enough. This post went in a different direction than I planned, so maybe I'll actually write again soon. ;)

5 comments:

madcapmum said...

"Don't work harder than the client."

Ain't that the truth! Not as a consultant, not in friendship, not in family relationships... a pretty good rule of thumb!

And to tie it into the enneagram (still my hobby-horse) - this is the pitfall of the two, and my mother is a two, always trying to "fix" people's lives for them. She's visiting this weekend - mercy!

Jocelyn said...

After having pain issues with bf my first and him going back ot the hosptail with jaundice and then pumping all his milk cause that was less painful than bf, and my lactation consultant insisting its a yeast infection since bf is not supposd to be that painful, even though neither of us showed classic signs (other than pain) I am disappointed that BF consultants insist BF is not supposed to be painful. The second time around everything was great with teh latch, the baby got plenty to eat and never had jaundice issues, but it HURT JUST AS BAD AS THE FIRST TIME and didn't let up for a good two weeks. I was crying from the pain. I had a lactation consultant help me out the 2nd time too and there was nothing to "fix" it was just a matter of pushing through it, scabbed and blistered nipples and all. my mom and sis together nursed 5 babies and both went through the same thing I did. now I am in that bliss land and wish I'd been able to get there with baby #1 but in the place I lived w/o my mom and sis to tell me reality (that it will hurt at first) I was only told it wasn't normal and since it "wasn't normal" I didn't want to push through it cause no one was saying eventually it would go awya.

anyway I just really hope that my experience will help you with anyone hving pain like I did...to not tell them "it shouldn't hurt" but instead to say "oh gosh I know it hurts like HE@#$(*& but it will go away if you can just get through it!"

Cause I think that by saying "it shouldn't hurt" it actually DISCOURAGES women rather than encouraging them and making them keeping on thinking something must be wrong and they're not doing it right or the baby's not doing it right or something. lactation consultants just need to be more honest about these things and stop living in la la land saying it doens't hurt. :) I know, kind of the wrong place to say all this but I just had to share. :)

Amanda said...

One of my pitfalls, according to the Enneagram, is cynicism. Which came out loud and clear in that last post!

Amanda said...

Oh, Joce, I just saw your post. Yeah, I hear what you're saying about telling people it shouldn't hurt. We're trained to say it might hurt a little at the beginning, but it shouldn't hurt a LOT for a long time, because that's a sign of a bad latch, which can lead to other bad things. Bleeding and so on is *supposed* to be preventable but may not always be avoidable in the first weeks because baby and mom are still learning. And obviously what hurts one person a little could hurt another person a LOT and still be normal.

Jocelyn said...

oh i guess i did post after all. :) i just read that article and thought it was understandable. i have felt the pressure from both "sides of the camp" and think that the best is to learn about everything out there and find what works best for you and your child cause each one is different! :) alot of times litlte bits from each offer good advice but I think its dangerous to take one whole philosophy and adopt it as your parenting religion cause it might not work for a child in every situation and then you just feel like a failure and it doesnt to any good to feel like failures all the time. :)

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